Prominent human rights lawyer M Ravi today said he would urge the Malaysian government to take the case of a mentally disabled Malaysian to the International Court of Justice following the decision by Singapore’s apex court to throw out Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam’s appeal against his death sentence.
Speaking to MalaysiaNow, Ravi described the court’s decision as “absolutely shocking”, saying Nagaenthran had not even been given an opportunity to be assessed by his psychiatrists.
“Without giving an opportunity to have him properly assessed, and to take away his life, is a waste of this entire judicial exercise,” he said, adding that this was “seriously troubling”.
He also questioned the court’s statement that even though Singapore had signed an international treaty prohibiting the killing of intellectually disabled persons, the republic would not have to abide by it until it is legislated locally.
“This, to me, is also a serious violation of international law on the protection of people who are intellectually disabled,” he said.
“I will ask that the Malaysian government take this matter to the International Court of Justice, and ask for an interim stay immediately because this is actually an egregious breach of international law.”
Nagaenthran, who has an IQ of 69 – a level recognised as a disability – was arrested in 2009 for trafficking a small amount of heroin into Singapore. He was sentenced to death the following year.
His case sparked international condemnation, with Malaysian leaders including the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, as well as personalities such as British billionaire Richard Branson among those asking for leniency on his behalf.
UK-based legal group Reprieve said the Singapore government had made clear its commitment to champion the rights of persons with disabilities.
“Allowing this travesty of justice to take place would fly in the face of those promises,” it said in a statement after the court judgment.
“We urge President Halimah Yacob to listen to the cries for mercy within Singapore and around the world, from the United Nations to global business leaders, and spare the life of this vulnerable man.”
Rights group Lawyers for Liberty meanwhile said today’s decision was in utter disregard for Singapore’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, agreeing that Malaysia should take the matter to the International Court of Justice.
It also slammed the court for what it called an attack on Nagaenthran’s lawyers for bringing up his case.
“The court itself instructed the Singapore Attorney-General’s Chambers to seek costs from Nagaenthran’s lawyers for filing the legal challenges. It is a sickening conduct that runs contrary to the rule of law of any civilised nation when lawyers are penalised for daring to raise an issue a matter of life and death,” it said.
Ravi himself said he and fellow lawyer Violet Netto had been “chastised and criticised” by the court for filing the applications on Nagaenthran’s behalf.
“Why do we have to face all these disciplinary actions to do these kinds of cases?” he said.
“Why do lawyers like ourselves stand up? What do we gain out of this except humiliation and further ruination by the state?”